The Slippery Slope of Encryption and Terrorism

encryption photoThis is really bugging me: Two nights in a row, on major news outlets reporting on the horrific attack on Paris, I have heard the reporters say things like, “the terrorists used encryption technology to ‘go dark’.”

I heard that on CBS evening news tonight (slightly paraphrased).

Last night on CNN, Poppy Sanchez (or whatever her name is) said that encryption was used to hide all of their communications, and that it was very concerning.

They are alluding to encryption as a bad thing because the terrorists used it to coordinate their attacks. They may have used automobiles too, but they didn’t seem concerned about that.

Why this attention to encryption irks me is because there has been a concerted effort by governments of the world (ours in the forefront) to get major tech companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, more) to build so-called “backdoors” into encryption technology.

That means that if you send an encrypted message to someone, otherwise unreadable by anyone except the person you sent it to, it can still be read through this “backdoor” by the governments who are in cahoots with the tech companies, allegedly to be able to monitor communications amongst the bad guys.

You’d think that’s a good idea, right? Well, it’s been proven over and over again that backdoors get found and exploited by people who are not supposed to find them.

That is what hackers do, for better or for worse, and it’s usually for the better. You heard me correctly. Hackers find exploits and tell people about them so that they get fixed, and make everyone safer.

That is what my day job involves, actually. Sure, there are evil hackers who like to exploit these things for nefarious purposes, but that’s why we continue to find vulnerabilities and fix them.

The news outlets are pushing this idea that encryption is some dark arts majik that terrorists are using, while no one else would ever dare need such a thing. I worry that this will give the general public the wrong idea: that encryption = terrorism, so we need to do something about it.

What better time to push this idea than after a terrible tragedy?

I will link to my favorite article about encryption. It’s short, and it makes sense, and you should read it. For now, a quote:

Today, we are seeing government pushback against encryption. Many countries, from States like China and Russia to more democratic governments like the United States and the United Kingdom, are either talking about or implementing policies that limit strong encryption. This is dangerous, because it’s technically impossible, and the attempt will cause incredible damage to the security of the Internet.

–Bruce Schneier, in Why We Encrypt


Edit (9:4pm): I missed the story circulating about this exact topic, confirming everything above.

Photos by Encryptomatic,

What Your Internet Plan Will Look Like Without Net Neutrality

If Senator John McCain has way by defeating the FCC’s move to support Net Neutrality with his “Internet Freedom Act“, this is what your Internet plan options could easily look like:


Say “goodbye” to experiencing the World Wide Web as you know it, and say “hello” to experiencing it as you do your cable TV, with restrictions on what you get unless you want to pay more, and unless the content providers pay more to be listed there.

As usual, the notion that a “government takeover” and a “marxist plot” are being bantered around to generate support for McCain’s bill through fear and ignorance. It goes without saying that McCain was the biggest beneficiary of  telco/ISP money in 2008, to the tune of $894,379.

Picture courtesy of some quink at Reddit.  Click the pic for the full-size image.


Today is the last day to register to vote in the November 7 elections, for you folks living in North Carolina.

I was pleased to find out that it is now possible to check your voting eligibility at the North Carolina State Board of Elections web site, where you can find out where you are supposed to go to vote, and even see pictures of the facility. Something I’ve had problems with during past elections is that they keep changing where I am supposed to go. I’ll show up one place, then learn I have to go somewhere else.

That should be fixed now with the online information available.

I have always believed that if you don’t vote, you don’t have the luxury of complaining about problems with the government. I know I’ll be voting for change this year, intending to oust the antiquated Charles Taylor in favor of Heath Shuler. And according to a poll released yesterday, Shuler is leading!